Steven pointed out to me that the first part of the Q&A also got obliterated and sent into the stratosphere during our recent technological nightmare.   So I need to re-post it.  Here it is!

I have received a number of interesting questions about the book, raised by these three segments of Q&A.  If you have any you would like me to address on the blog, let me know!   Here is the original post:


As I have already indicated, my book Jesus Before the Gospels will be published in a month, on March 1.   As part of the promotion and marketing of the book, I have written out a few answers to questions that my publicist presented to me, as a kind of Q&A that she can use for her work of getting the word out there.   I answered twelve questions related to the book, and will post my responses here on the blog in three bite-size chunks.  Here is chunk #1.


  1. What is it that drives your fascination with how Jesus has been ‘remembered’ and ‘misremembered’?

When most people today read the Gospels of the New Testament, they nearly always assume that these accounts of the words and deeds of Jesus were written soon after his death by people who knew him and his disciples: these are transcripts of the things Jesus said and did, down to the minute detail.  What people tend not to realize is that these accounts were written 40-60 years after Jesus had died, by people who did not know him, who did not live in his same country, who did not speak his same language.  So how did these authors (who are all four anonymous) acquire their stories about Jesus?  The answer scholars have given for a very long time is that these authors had heard stories about Jesus that had been in circulation for year after year, decade after decade, after his life.   I’ve long been intrigued by this phenomenon, and several years ago realized (at last!) that it is closely related to a field of study pursued by psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists, all of whom are interested in how human memory works.  Is memory always reliable?  Can eyewitnesses be trusted always to give an accurate account of what happened?  Do stories ever change when they are told?  Do they ever not change?  What happens to stories – not just in early Christianity, but in life in general – when they are told and retold over decades?  In short, how does our knowledge of human memory help us understand what was happening to the accounts of Jesus’ words and deeds as they were circulating in the decades before any of our Gospel authors wrote them down?

  1. How have scholars traditionally explained the gap of time between when Jesus was alive and when the Gospels were written, and why is that problematic?

Many scholars have somewhat unreflectively maintained that the Gospels ultimately go back to eyewitness testimonies to Jesus’ life and that they are therefore reliable; or that oral cultures – such as in Roman (then Christian) antiquity – preserve their traditions with a high degree of accuracy.   I realized several years ago that…

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